World Made by Hand

I just finished James Kunstler’s new novel World Made by Hand. It’s the best book I’ve read in awhile. Years ago, Kunstler’s anti-suburbia polemic The Geography of Nowhere greatly influenced my thinking about urban planning, architecture, and public spaces. In his later non-fictional The Long Emergency, Kunstler imagined what our lives will be like (yes, he says, this WILL happen) when we run out of oil. The new novel is an apocalyptic, fictional telling of the same story, set a few decades from now in a small town in Upstate New York that mixes elements of Mad Max with Little House on the Prairie. There’s no oil, therefore, no cars or central heating. New York City is a flooded wasteland, Washington D.C. a nuclear disaster. There are rumors of a U.S. President, and he may be in Minneapolis, but no one knows for sure. Climate change, disease, and war force people to retrench in every way imaginable. Travel is slow and infrequent. People grow vegetables in their yards. Landfills are gold mines.

Music plays an important part in people’s lives, perhaps more so than it does now. The main character, a former software executive named Robert Earle, is a skilled violinist with a band, and his ability to make music in a world without electricity earns him some status and protection from his neighbors.

Alan Cheuse’s NPR review.

The New York Times review comes out later this week (April 20.)

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Comments

will read

I just requested it from my local library. It sounds like an interesting read.

Hi, Sharon

I hope you like the book. Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us, has good things to say about it.

Brenda

Me, too

I like this book a bunch, too. I was reminded of Weisman's book, especially the remarkable chapter in which he describes how New York City would decay and erode rather quickly if humans stopped keeping it dry and propping it up.